Film

Empty Threats

Yuen Woo-ping's True Legend: In Which Computers Ruin Everything

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YUEN WOO-PING is a certified badass. In his 66 years, the martial arts choreographer and occasional director has been responsible for some of the most stunningly kinetic sights on film: Jackie Chan's feats in Drunken Master and Snake in the Eagle's Shadow. Donnie Yen's acrobatics in Iron Monkey. Jet Li's blazing fury in Fist of Legend. Kung Fu Hustle. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Kill Bill. The Matrix. If an action scene has smashed your jaw to the floor, chances are Yuen Woo-ping's somewhere behind it.

But his latest, True Legend, is more or less entirely awful. Other than children's animation, perhaps no genre has been as negatively affected by the shiny onslaught of CG as kung fu—and True Legend is a wearying example of how effectively technology can suck all tension and spectacle out of a film. True Legend features Vincent Zhao as a warrior who seeks revenge on his eeeevil adopted brother (Andy On), who's so eeeevil that he has wizard-like powers—and while there are training montages, spiritual journeys, and increasingly grandiose fights (plus wasted cameos from Michelle Yeoh, Jay Chou, and David Carradine), none of it has any weight or impact. Every fight scene is floaty and flailing, and everything's been doused in more soulless digital airbrushing than a Cher headshot. If it's a cartoon kung fu movie you're looking for, watch Kung Fu Panda instead. If it's just a decent kung fu flick you want, rewatch any of the ones I mentioned in the first paragraph.

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Director: Yuen Woo Ping

Writer: Chi-long To

Cast: Man Cheuk Chiu, Xun Zhou, Michelle Yeoh, Xiaogang Feng, Andy On, Luxia Jiang, Chia Hui Liu, Ka-Yan Leung, Jay Chou and David Carradine

Related Film

Director: Yuen Woo Ping

Writer: Chi-long To

Cast: Man Cheuk Chiu, Xun Zhou, Michelle Yeoh, Xiaogang Feng, Andy On, Luxia Jiang, Chia Hui Liu, Ka-Yan Leung, Jay Chou and David Carradine

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